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Addition of (bio)surfactants in the biofiltration of hydrophobic volatile organic compounds in air

  • Lamprea Pineda, Paula
  • Demeestere, Kristof
  • Gonzaléz Cortés, José Joaquin
  • Boon, Nico
  • Devlieghere, Frank
  • Van Langenhove, Herman
  • Walgraeve, Christophe
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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The removal of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air is of utmost importance to safeguard both environmental quality and human well-being. However, the low aqueous solubility of hydrophobic VOCs results in poor removal in waste gas biofilters (BFs). In this study, we evaluated the addition of (bio)surfactants in three BFs (BF1 and BF2 mixture of compost and wood chips (C + WC), and BF3 filled with expanded perlite) to enhance the removal of cyclohexane and hexane from a polluted gas stream. Experiments were carried out to select two (bio)surfactants (i.e., Tween 80 and saponin) out of five (sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), Tween 80, surfactin, rhamnolipid and saponin) from a physical-chemical (i.e., decreasing VOC gas-liquid partitioning) and biological (i.e., the ability of the microbial consortium to grow on the (bio)surfactants) point of view. The results show that adding Tween 80 at 1 critical micelle concentration (CMC) had a slight positive effect on the removal of both VOCs, in BF1 (e.g., 7.0 ± 0.6 g cyclohexane m−3 h−1, 85 ± 2% at 163 s; compared to 6.7 ± 0.4 g cyclohexane m−3 h−1, 76 ± 2% at 163 s and 0 CMC) and BF2 (e.g., 4.3 ± 0.4 g hexane m−3 h−1, 27 ± 2% at 82 s; compared to 3.1 ± 0.7 g hexane m−3 h−1, 16 ± 4% at 82 s and 0 CMC), but a negative effect in BF3 at either 1, 3 and 9 CMC (e.g., 2.4 ± 0.4 g hexane m−3 h−1, 30 ± 4% at 163 s and 1 CMC; compared to 4.6 ± 1.0 g hexane m−3 h−1, 43 ± 8% at 163 s and 0 CMC). In contrast, the performance of all BFs improved with the addition of saponin, particularly at 3 CMC. Notably, in BF3, the elimination capacity (EC) and removal efficiency (RE) doubled for both VOCs (i.e., 9.1 ± 0.6 g cyclohexane m−3 h−1, 49 ± 3%; 4.3 ± 0.3 g hexane m−3 h−1, 25 ± 3%) compared to no biosurfactant addition (i.e., 4.5 ± 0.4 g cyclohexane m−3 h−1, 23 ± 3%; hexane 2.2 ± 0.5 g m−3 h−1, 10 ± 2%) at 82 s. Moreover, the addition of the (bio)surfactants led to a shift in the microbial consortia, with a different response in BF1–BF2 compared to BF3. This study evaluates for the first time the use of saponin in BFs, it demonstrates that cyclohexane and hexane RE can be improved by (bio)surfactant addition, and it provides recommendations for future studies in this field.

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